Council votes down pay rise
Plus: An exciting announcement from us
Hello Patchers — Welcome to your mid-week newsletter.
First things first, we have an exciting announcement that I am bursting to tell you, but you will have to wait just a little bit longer. Look out for an extra message from us in your inbox at around lunchtime when all will be revealed.
In other news, Kate was at yesterday evening’s council meeting finding out — among other things — how big an allowance councillors have agreed to pay themselves this year. No more than last year, it turns out, but not everyone was happy about this. More details on that in your Brum in Brief along with some interesting data comparing our local authority with its counterparts in Leeds and Manchester.
Elsewhere, as we are still riding high from the news that Opheem has bagged itself a second Michelin star, I’ve linked to an interview with superstar chef Aktar Islam. Also below, find out which Midlands MP is involved in the latest round of intra-party Conservative politicking, and explore the cracking lineups at two music and food-filled local events. Enjoy.
Outside of those notes, there are now 340 of you (plus myself, so 341) all paying for Dispatch journalism, updates, and briefs. This community financing allows hard-nosed journalists such as Kate to spend time at council meetings as well as speak to local experts about what Afghan’s poppy harvest (or lack of) has to do with Birmingham. This support is paving a new road for journalism in this city. It’s a pleasure to have you all with us.
Brum in Brief
💸Pay day moan: Birmingham City Council (BCC) has voted not to raise member allowances by 18.9%, spread over four years, as recommended by an independent panel. At yesterday’s meeting, Council leader John Cotton said members should not agree to the increase due to the financial strain facing the city. “We are in very difficult times,” he said. Senior Conservative Meirion Jenkins, on the other hand, said “we are making a mistake” and argued that the independent process should be respected. There was also a discussion about the importance of making the role accessible to those without a financial safety net.
📊Census mention: Some interesting comparisons between Birmingham and other cities were made by the panel. As you probably know, BCC serves a significantly larger electorate — 1,144,900 — than elsewhere. Leeds City Council has the next largest population at 812,000, followed by Manchester City Council at 552,000. In December 2022, each BCC councillor served 7,323 people. In Leeds, it was 5,881 and in Manchester 3,924.
🧮Mancunian maths: Interestingly, the rate at which Manchester City Council allowances are determined is significantly higher than in Birmingham. Manchester members get £4.80 per elector while Birmingham’s get £2.58. (In Leeds, it’s £2.93). In 2022, BCC members received £18,876; Leeds £17,234; and Manchester £18,841. These are the basic allowances — councillors with extra responsibilities get more.
🟦PopCon don: Wendy Morton, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, has been spotted at the launch of a new grouping within the Conservative Party. The Popular Conservatism movement — dubbed PopCon — aims to pressure Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on right-wing agenda points. Namely, immigration, tax and leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss launched the caucus, with Sir Jacob-Rees Mogg, Dame Priti Patel and Simon Clarke also taking part.
🥂Tasting notes for Brum: As Kate covered on Monday, Opheem is the proud recipient of another Michelin star — making the Indian eatery the first in Birmingham to nab two. In a BBC interview, the man behind the food, Aktar Islam, said: "I'm just very happy being a Brummie born and bred that I've been able to be part of that, me and my team, we've been able to deliver something that the city has never seen before."
🎵University music festival returns: For those with sonic inclinations, the University of Birmingham’s CrossCurrents festival is returning after a Covid-enforced break. The music programme runs from 24 February to 17 March and includes free Friday gigs, Barber Institute evening concerts, and 20 world premieres. I quite like the sound of the natural and electronic soundscapes at the Lapworth Museum. The full lineup and itinerary is here.
🔉New programme at Hockley Social: One of Birmingham's premier hip night-time venues — offering food, dancing, cocktails and talks — the Hockley Social Club has announced an eye-catching line-up for the coming months. Having recently revamped its space, the night-time institution is hoping to build on the success of hosting the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Professor Carl Chinn and the Symphony Orchestra. Forthcoming events include a celebration of hip-hop auter J Dilla, a talk on the impact of reality TV, an in conversation with Baggies legend John Giles, and comedy from BAFTA breakthrough Luisa Omielan. I’m already trying to figure out my own diary to find time to get down there. Details with a click.